Mighty Conquerer to Stand Tall

A meticulous plan by leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond to acclimatise Mighty Conqueror to standing-start racing has excellent prospects of bearing fruit when the lightly-raced and highly talented four-year-old contests the $50,000 Easter Cup at Gloucester Park on Thursday night.

With the Group 2 Easter Cup the target, the New Zealand-bred Mighty Conqueror has had a thorough education in stands, having contested stands at his past six starts, leading into this week’s big race over the marathon trip of 2902m.

He has not been faultless, but has shown a growing aptitude to this style of racing after his first ten starts were in mobiles --- which included a victory in the $50,000 Four-Year-Old Championship, third in the $125,000 Four-Year-Old Classic and a nose second to stablemate Ana Malak in the $200,000 Golden Nugget Championship late last year --- before beginning his well thought-out campaign in stands.

These stands produced a desperately unlucky fourth in the Northam Cup (after hanging in and breaking 500m from home and going six wide on the home turn), four wins at Pinjarra (three over 2631m and one over 2116m) and a half-head second to Rocknroll Beachboy over 2631m at Pinjarra after breaking and working hard in the breeze.

At his most recent appearance Mighty Conqueror started off the 20m mark and enjoyed an ideal trail in the one-out and one-back position before racing away to win by 14m from Bettor Be Lively, dashing over the final three quarters in 29.4sec., 28.7sec. and 27.9sec. and setting a track record for the distance of 1.56 last Monday week.

Mighty Conqueror, the least experienced runner in Friday night’s Cup, with 11 wins, two seconds and a third from just 16 starts, will start from the outside of the 20m line, which is virtually only a 10m handicap because there are no runners off the front line. He will again be driven by the State’s leading reinsman Ryan Warwick, who guided the Steve Burton-trained Phar From A Fake to victory in the 2004 Easter Cup.

The Bonds are following their successful plan of two years ago when they gave Assassinator three starts in stands leading into the Easter Cup. Assassinator, a 15/1 chance driven by Ryan Bell, led for the first lap before taking the sit behind the stablemate Galactic Star and then finishing fast to snatch a head victory from the 5/4 fancy.

In an even field this year, several runners have winning prospects, with Mighty Conqueror’s chief rivals likely to be Caviar Star, As Happy As Larry, Sarah Goody and Miss Sangrial.

Caviar Star, trained by Gary Hall Snr and to be driven by Stuart McDonald, and As Happy As Larry, trained by Robbie Williams and to be driven by Chris Lewis, are in peak form and are the lone runners off the back mark of 30m.

Caviar Star, an up-and-coming four-year-old, has won at 11 of his past 20 starts and was gallant in defeat last Friday night when he raced wide early and then in the breeze before finishing a close second to the pacemaker Kiwi Legend, who rated 1.54 over 1730m, with final quarters in 27.4sec. and 28.1sec.

Two weeks earlier, Caviar Star was most impressive when he started off 30m and sustained a spirited three-wide burst from the 1050m to get to the front 550m from home and then race away to win by three lengths from Tuas Delight, rating 1.58.2 over 2503m.

As Happy As Larry warmed up for the Cup in fine style last Friday week when he finished powerfully to win from Lady De La Renta over 2130m. Lewis is the most successful reinsman in the Easter Cup which was first run in 1912 when Golddust won at a 2.44 rate.

Lewis has won the Cup with Pallaton (1980), Gold Rowan (1984), Village Kid (1987), Abmidas (1997), OK Windermere (who dead-heated with Patches in 2006) and Lovers Delight (2015).

Gary Hall Jnr has won the Cup five times --- with The Falcon Strike (off the back mark of 20m) in 2003, Patches (off the back mark of 30m) in 2006, Uppy Son (10m) in 2012, Rebel Scooter (10m) in 2013, and Znana (off the front) in 2016. This year he will handle the Kevin Keys-trained mare Sarah Goody, who will start off 20m.

Sarah Goody has won at 15 of her 40 starts and is in fine form, with two wins from three starts since resuming from a spell. She handled the stand well six starts ago when she finished boldly to be second to Eden Franco in the 2503m Race For Roses early in May last year. Twelve months before that Sarah Goody surged home from last at the bell to finish second to Maczaffair in the WA Oaks.

Five-year-old Sarah Goody and four-year-old Miss Sangrial are the only mares in the field of 12. Party Date, trained and driven by Aiden Warwick, was the most recent Cup winner by a mare, when she beat Heez Ruthless and Faking It in 2005. Among the classy martes to have won the Easter Cup are Kola Girl (1920), Derby Fayette (1938), Portree (1959), Color Glo (1967), Miss Dundee (1971), Wee Cent (1974) and Via Valencia (1991).

Miss Sangrial, to be driven by Michael Grantham for his uncle, trainer Michael Brennan, should be prominent throughout and is capable of causing a minor upset. The Colin Joss-trained Bettor Be Lively is racing keenly, particularly in stands, and reinsman Shannon Suvaljko is optimistic that the gelding will perform strongly.